Soviet Literary Characters: An Investigation into the Portrayal of Soviet Men in Russian Prose, 1917-1953

By Jeanne van der Eng-Liedmeier | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

One of the most striking features of Soviet literature as opposed to the classic tradition is that the characters are nearly always shown in relation to their work, to a special task set by society or by the Party, as is often directly stated. And, moreover, we find an ever growing tendency to give form to an ideal type of man who develops himself harmoniously and finds complete happiness in the fulfilment of this social task. We can draw a parallel between this ideal and an essential Marxist doctrine as interpreted in Russia. According to this fundamental principle, moral standards are determined by the structure of society and the most perfect type of society, the socialist one, will in the end produce a perfect type of man, the New Man, who of his own accord and without pressure by the state will observe the elementary rules of society.1 Thus the antithesis of individual and community, of egotism and altruism, of personal and social propensities will disappear. These elements then form a harmonious unity and lasting conflicts between personal life and social task are considered impossible.2

The object of this book is to study the various forms in which Soviet men appear in Russian literary prose from 1917 to 1953. In the term 'Soviet men' we are summing up all characters that by virtue of their communist faith play a part in the construction of socialist society. This communist faith naturally does not necessarily presuppose membership of the Party.3 A a matter of fact, we consider as

____________________
1
V. I. Lenin, Sočinenija, izd. 4e, 25 (M., 1941-50), p. 434.
2
Cf. e.g. P. A. Šarija, O nekotorych voprosach kommunističeskoj morali (M., 1951), p. 118, and L. Timofeev, Russkaja sovetskaja literatura, izd. 7e (M., 1952), p. 17. Cf. also R. A. Bauer, The New Man in Soviet Psychology ( Cambridge, Mass., 1952), p. 178.
3
The difference between Party member and non-Party member is more and more blurred in the literature after 1934 and was even called 'formal' by Stalin in 1946 ('Reč' na predvybornom sobranii izbiratelej Stalinskogo izbiratet'nogo okruga g. Moskvy, 9 fevralja 1946 goda', Pravda, 10.2.1946). Occasionally such terms are found as nepartijnyj bol'ševik ( V. Ozerov, "Obraz peredovogosovetskogo čeloveka"

-7-

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Soviet Literary Characters: An Investigation into the Portrayal of Soviet Men in Russian Prose, 1917-1953
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Foreword 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • I - Literary Types in the First Period (1917-1929) 11
  • II - Literary Types in the Second Period (1929-1934) 75
  • III - Literary Types in the Third Period (1934-1941) 107
  • IV - Literary Types in the Fourth Period (1946-1953) 129
  • Conclusion 157
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index of Authors 171
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